Oct 182005
 

Looking at the scores from Saturday through tonight, one has to begin wondering if teams are starting to figure out the new NHL and the new rules. From Saturday through Monday there have been 18 games which produced 4 teams being shutout and another 8 being held to just 1 goal and another 7 being held to just 2 goals. Over those 18 games the goals per game average was 4.89, below the 5.06 goals per game in the same 18 games in 2003-04. It is too early to say this reduced scoring is going to stick but we shall find out over the next week.

 Posted by at 9:16 am
Oct 172005
 

I missed posting yesterday’s game predictions but all were considered pick-ems except for LA over Columbus which was a strong bet and the Kings did in fact win.

Here are todays game predictions.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers Florida Pick N/A
Detroit San Jose Detroit Strong
Calgary Phoenix Calgary Some
 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Oct 152005
 

Predictions for tonights games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Montreal Toronto Montreal Strong
Ottawa Boston Ottawa Strong
NY Rangers Atlanta NY Rangers Some
Philadelphia NY Islanders NY Islanders Some
New Jersey Carolina New Jersey Some
Pittsburgh Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Strong
Florida Buffalo Buffalo Some
St. Louis Nashville Nashville Strong
Calgary Edmonton Edmonton Some
Phoenix Detroit Detroit Good
San Jose Chicago San Jose Good
 Posted by at 8:12 pm
Oct 152005
 

Every week I am going to post a Top 10 list of some sort. This week it is the NHL’s top 10 goalies.

Martin Brodeur – It is hard to argue against this guy. He’s accomplished pretty much everything in his career and at age 33 he still has a lot of hockey ahead of him. He has led New Jersey to 3 Stanley Cups, and Team Canada to Olympic gold and finally got his Vezina trophy in the last NHL season. Brodeur is simply the best.

Roberto Luongo – Luongo is setting himself to be the next great NHL goalie. In 2003-04 he played 72 games on a Florida team with a weak defense and as a result faced more rubber than any other goalie. But he excelled posting a 2.43 goals against average and an outstanding .931 save percentage. This year is no different as he has already posted 2 shutouts.

Marty Turco – Although 2003-04 was a bit of an off year (first half anyway) for Turco it was still a very good year. His career goals against average of just 1.93 is simply amazing and his career save percentage of .921 is not too shabby either. So long as Dallas has Turco they have a chance to win any game.

Jose Theodore – Former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner, Theodore has established himself as one of the better goalies in the league despite playing on some mediocre teams. Although he has been very good since his 2001-02 MVP year, he has yet to repeat that elite level of success and that stops him from being higher on this list.

Andrew Raycroft – This is just his second full NHL season but as a rookie he established himself as a goalie who deserves to be on this list winning the Calder trophy and posting a very respectable 2.05 goals against average and an equally excellent .926 save percentage. Boston’s goaltending is in solid hands with Raycroft.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere – I thought Giguere might be one of those goalies who might suffer with the new, smaller equipment but so far he has adjusted well. When Giguere is on his game he can be as good as anyone as witnessed by Anaheim’s playoff run in 2002-03.

Tomas Vokoun – Doesn’t have the name recognition of the others in this list but that is mostly because he plays in Nashville. Vokoun is a workhorse having played in 69 and 73 games the past 2 seasons and although his goals against average and saver percentages weren’t outstanding, they were very good on a sub-par team and in the playoffs he nearly led the Predators to a series win over the Red Wings. This year could be the year he really establishes himself now that the Predators look to have a pretty good team.

Nikolai Khabibulin – Khabibulin has the talent and ability to be one of the top 3 goalies in the NHL but for some reason he just can’t be that guy consistently. His 2003-04 season is perfect evidence of that. During the regular season he struggled for stretches and at times all but lost his #1 role to backup John Grahame, but in the playoffs he was awesome and was a significant part of Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup win. He has struggled so far in Chicago as well.

Miikka Kipprusoff – I am not convinced Kipprusoff deserves to be on this list considering he has only been a starter for half a season. But that half season was nothing short of outstanding which he followed up with an outstanding playoff run. But so far this year he has struggled, and needs to come back and prove that 2003-04 wasn’t an aberration. If he can do that then he deserves to be higher on this list.

Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek – I struggled with where to put these two old guys on the list because we don’t yet know how much they have left in them so I’ll put them together at #10. There isn’t much to say about either goalies careers. They have both been great, both winning Stanley Cups and Vezinas.

Honorable Mention: Dwayne Roloson, Evgeni Nabokov, Olaf Kolzig

 Posted by at 12:01 am
Oct 142005
 

Ok, got back on track last night going 4-2 which is right on the 65-70% success rate I am hoping to achieve. Here are tonights game predictions.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Philadelphia Pittsburgh Philadelphia Good
Atlanta Toronto Pick N/A
Minnesota Vancouver Vancouver Some
Colorado Chicago Colorado Strong
Edmonton Dallas Edmonton Good
Anaheim Columbus Anaheim Strong


 Posted by at 6:13 pm
Oct 132005
 

I new it would happen. I first day I post predictions things go bad and I go 1 for 4. Hopefully I had enough disclaimers, especially about it being very early in the season to make predictions. In any event, we move on to tonights predictions. If things don’t go well tonight I am going to pause posting any more predictions until more games have been played and predictions are (hopefully) more reliable.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
NY Rangers New Jersey NY Rangers Some
Washington NY Islanders NY Islanders Some
Florida Boston Florida Good
Tampa Bay Buffalo Pick N/A
Calgary Dallas Dallas Strong
Phoenix Nashville Nashville Good
Los Angeles Detroit Los Angeles Strong
 Posted by at 5:59 pm
Oct 132005
 

This morning saw the debut of the HockeyAnalysis.com Power Rankings and this afternoon I debut the second HockeyAnalysis.com feature. Game predictions. I was reluctant to debut this so early in the season because these game predictions are determined mathematically based on what teams have done up to this point in the season and since the season is only a week old the predictions may be unreliable. But over the past 2 days my picks in which I had good confidence in have gone 6-2 so maybe it isn’t too early. We’ll see what happens now that I make my picks public.

Like the power rankings, the game predictions have no bias or opinion in them. They are 100% determined by mathematical formula which was derived using data from the 2002-03 and 2003-04 NHL seasons. For each pick I will assign a ‘Confidence’ rating which is also mathematically calculated. The confidence ratings are Strong, Good and Some and are an indication of how likely the outcome is to be. You will also find some game predictions listed as Pick. These games are too close to call and could go either way.

Two more notes before we get to the picks. First, these picks don’t account for recent injuries, trade acquisitions, or the use of a backup goalie. These factors could affect the likely outcome of the game so take note. Second, upsets happen and my predictions may not come true. If you use these to help you bet on games don’t blame me if you lose money. Although I strive for a solid sudcess rate, I make no guarantees as to what can happen.

And without further delay, here are the picks for tonights games.

Home Team Road Team Predicted Winner Confidence
Carolina Washington Washington Good
Atlanta Montreal Atlanta Some
Minnesota Vancouver Vancouver Strong
Colorado Nashville Pick N/A
San Jose Columbus San Jose Good
 Posted by at 12:38 am
Oct 122005
 

Here is the first edition of the HockeyAnalysis.com NHL Power Rankings. Unlike other power rankings that you see on both mainstream media and hockey fan websites this version of power rankings is 100% non-biased. I have developed a formula to rank teams based on each teams won-loss record, toughness (or weakness) of schedule, as well as a few other factors. Since the season is still quite young there are a few strange ranking showing up but mostly the rankings seem pretty good. One example of this is New Jersey. With a 2-1 record you might think they should be ranked higher but they aren’t because they lossed to Philadelphia, a lowly ranked team, and their wins came against Pittsburgh and the Rangers, two more lowly ranked teams. When they start playing against, and defeating, better ranked teams their own ranking will improve. The “Power Rank” column is the teams ‘score’ produced by the formula. A general rule of thumb is that teams scoring above 10 are above average and those below 10 are below average.

Rank Team Win-Loss Power Rank
1 Ottawa 4- 0 15.0
2 Nashville 2- 0 14.6
3 Edmonton 3- 1 13.7
4 Dallas 2- 1 13.3
5 Los Angeles 3- 1 13.1
6 Buffalo 3- 1 12.8
7 Florida 3- 1 12.5
8 Atlanta 2- 1 12.1
9 Vancouver 2- 1 12.1
10 Montreal 3- 1 11.9
11 Colorado 2- 1 11.7
12 Tampa Bay 2- 2 11.5
13 Detroit 3- 1 11.4
14 Toronto 1- 3 11.0
15 Washington 2- 2 10.1
16 NY Islanders 1- 2 10.0
17 Boston 2- 2 9.5
18 Anaheim 1- 2 9.0
19 New Jersey 2- 1 8.8
20 Phoenix 1- 3 8.2
21 St. Louis 1- 3 8.2
22 NY Rangers 1- 3 7.8
23 Minnesota 1- 2 7.3
24 Philadelphia 1- 2 7.2
25 Calgary 1- 3 7.1
26 San Jose 1- 2 6.6
27 Columbus 1- 2 6.4
28 Carolina 1- 2 5.9
29 Chicago 1- 3 5.9
30 Pittsburgh 0- 4 5.4
 Posted by at 7:21 pm
Oct 072005
 

This is my first, of hopefully many, article involving more in depth statistical analysis. I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts on it and what sort of things they would find interesting to look at. I am working on devising a statistical method to accurately predict which team will win an upcoming game as well as a Power Rankings formula, both of which I hope to unveil in a few weeks time. As part of those projects I have tried to identify what teams win games. Do defensive minded teams win, or do offensive minded teams win. To do this I analyzed all the game results of the 2003-04 season and came up with the following results.

Home Team Record 589-470-171 .548 win%
Team with better offence 634-414-166 .591
Team with better defense 637-414-170 .591
Team with better offence
and defense
444-224-101 .643
Home team has better offence 351-180- 76 .641
Home team has better defense 349-178- 84 .640
Road team has better offence 283-234- 90 .540
Road team has better defense 288-236- 86 .543

A team was said to have better offence if they, over the course of the full season, had more goals for than their opponent. A team was said to have better defense if they had fewer goals against than their opponent.

What surprised me is how little it matters whether you have the better offence or better defense. So long as you are better than your opponent at one of them, you have a good chance at winning. Of course, being better both in scoring goals and stopping them is the best. Also, playing at home is a significant advantage too.

General hockey wisdom is that teams frequently play differently at home than on the road. At home they prefer to play an offense oriented game to put on a show for their fans while on the road they play a more disciplined defensive style game. The fact that home teams score about 10% more goals than road teams would seem to back this up, but it could also be due to the extra fatigue/stress caused by traveling and living out of a suitcase. Whatever the reason, home teams score more goals.

In the above table we used season long (82 game) goals for and goals against data, but what if we use home and road (41 game) goals for and goals against data. i.e. when determining which team has the best offence we look at the home teams goals for in games played at home and the road teams goals for in games played on the road. When we do this the results look quite different.

Team with better offence 656-381-166 .614
Team with better defense 539-514-170 .510
Team with better offence
and defense
284-146- 61 .641
Home team has better offence 446-253-110 .619
Home team has better defense 91- 20- 7 .801
Road team has better offence 210-128- 56 .604
Road team has better defense 448-494-163 .479

Now those are some dramatically different results. The shocking thing is, if you can play good defence at home or good offence on the road, you improve your chances of winning dramatically. Also, it appears to be a big mistake to play defensive on the road.

The five teams with the fewest goals against at home Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Colorado, and Ottawa. The five teams with the most goals on the road are Colorado, Ottawa, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver, all very good teams with very good records. All of those teams finished with 100+ points except Dallas which ended up with 97. Also, Detroit and Dallas had the two best home record and San Jose finished fourth and Ottawa fifth.

Conversely, the five teams with the fewest goals against on the road are New Jersey, Boston, Calgary, Vancouver and Minnesota. The five teams with the most goals for at home are Detroit, Ottawa, NY Islanders, Tampa Bay and Buffalo. Two of those teams didn’t make the playoffs and two others had fewer than 95 points.

Moral of the story: Playing offensive at home and defensive on the road isn’t necessarily the best strategy.

 Posted by at 5:23 pm
Oct 072005
 

The season started with a bang in New Jersey last night. Sidney Crosby got his first taste of NHL action, the new look Pittsburgh offense made it’s debut, and New Jersey’s new defense was showcased as well. Here’s what I thought of the game:

Pittsburgh:
This team can put some pressure on the net! The first half of the first period was spent on the Pittsburgh powerplay, and the puck rarely came out of the zone. Mario was his usual patient, all-seeing, brilliant self. Sidney, in his first NHL game, was surprisingly composed and alert. If any other goaltender in the world was in net, he would have had at least two goals. He did manage to finish the night with an assist on the Pens lone goal, but on this night his former high school teammate, Zach Parise of the Devils, would be the more impressive rookie.

Goaltending looked like an issue for Pittsburgh. Thibault was just average in net… he never seemed to settle down. Maybe it was opening night jitters, or maybe he was nervous because he was playing for a new team, but he didn’t look very good. His performance makes me wonder what Eddie Olzcyk plans on doing with Marc-Andre Fleury.

New Jersey:
This team definitely is not the Devils of old. The absense of Stevens and Niedermayer was glaringly obvious. Matvichuk struggled to finish hits… Crosby slithered away from him a few times. McGillis was absolutely atrocious on the point during powerplays. But the bright spots for this crew are their puck-movers. Rafalski looks like captain material out there… his presence is dominant, especially considering his diminutive stature (5’9″, 191 lbs.). Malakhov, although slow on his feet, looked better than ever with the puck. Paul Martin continues to grow in his game and will one day be a top defenseman.

To anyone who watched the game, the star was obvious. Marty Brodeur stood on his head and made the Penguins shake theirs on too many occasions to count. Also, with the two-line pass rule gone, he set up his teammates several times with tape-to-tape passes that some NHL defensemen aren’t even capable of making. If he continues to play like this, the Devils are a very legitimate threat for the Stanley Cup.

Finally, there was one more big difference between the new Devils and the old Devils… they didn’t sit on their lead. In seasons past, the Devs used to trap their way to victory whenever they’d get an early lead. This team, however, under Larry Robinson’s guidance was aggressive to the end. Their five-goal output was evidence of this.

I did get to see bits and pieces of other games, thanks to the Center Ice digital cable package. I remember turning on the Leafs-Senators game and being amazed by the flow. The teams seemed to go back and forth nonstop creating big plays and opportunities at every turn… very exciting game. The Rangers victory over the Flyers took a lot of people by surprise. It seemed to me that the Rangers were outworking the Flyers down low… something New York hasn’t been known for since the mid-90s. Forsberg was great, though, and as soon as Hatcher comes back Philly should be OK.

The general impression I got was that teams are still struggling with the new penalties. I hope referees start calling diving more often because I saw a lot of innocent players sent to the box as the result of Oscar-worthy acting performances. I also saw a lot of two-line passing. That one new rule is having a major impact on the game and I, for one, am happy to see it. The new goalie restrictions on where the puck can be played just seemed silly. Skilled goalies just retrieve the puck before it crosses the goal line, and stay-at-home netminders just continue to play the puck the way they always have. Hopefully this rule will have a shorter life span than the ill-fated crease rule.

 Posted by at 9:18 am